Decorating with things you already own

Practical tips for designing your space on a minimal budget
By Trilby Beresford    Published on 11/27/2017 at 9:00 AM EDT

When I first moved out of my family home and into a shared house with friends from University, I was a student whose budget didn’t allow for decorative purchases like original artwork and centerpieces. I knew little about design, so it didn’t even occur to me to try anything that was “DIY.” So, my portion of the house was bare, depressing and distinctly lacked character. This problem followed me to different houses throughout my twenties; then I realized that homes are visual representations of their inhabitants, and therefore decorating is really about self-expression, not about showing off fancy things. It’s meant to be fun, and above all, easy.

I now live with my girlfriend: she’s a cinematographer for work and a musician for fun, and I’m a writer (both for work and for fun), so our combined decorating budget is still low. But we enjoy decorating our home with special items from our lives and things we regularly use: sporting equipment, pots and pans, musical instruments and more. At one point, we displayed an exhaust pipe from her beloved Puch moped in the living room. The metal was dirty from overuse, but it stood out and encouraged conversation from visitors. Decorating with things we already own is great: everything is right there to choose from, and no budget is necessary (apart from a few dollars here and there to buy nails or shelving brackets).

Here’s my bicycle on the wall in our TINY library area beneath the stairs. It’s one of my favorite items because I use it a lot for transportation to my office in Silver Lake, and also for exercise. My girlfriend and I sometimes ride along a scenic trail to Venice or Marina Del Rey, so I have plenty of fond memories on the bike.

Not only is this wall mount efficient and functional because it gets the bike off the floor (we used to trip over it every day), but it looks neat — kind of like an art installation! The beam that holds it up is an old piece of wood that we found (stained to look a little fresher), and the metal-spike-looking things are cheap pipes from the hardware store.

Here are my girlfriend’s guitars. She’s been playing for many years and writes songs for her rock band in our living room, so we needed a practical solution for their storage. I personally love having her guitars on the wall, because the sight of them as I walk past makes me happy.

They’re held up with cheap brackets, again from the hardware store. The guitars only go into their cases when she’s traveling with them.

Now for her Ukulele! This was my Christmas present to her last year. This is hung up with a single push-pin.

And her moped helmet. My girlfriend has actually sold her moped now, but we like to keep the helmet on display because it’s so funky looking. And of course, in case she gets another moped or motorcycle in the future.

This is a vintage motorcycle jacket we found at a used bike store. It has a great look. 

The jacket is in the middle of our living room, so it’s almost the first thing people see when they enter through the front door.

Our pots and pans! Cooking is an activity we do together on a regular basis (she’s taught me how to cook many dishes, like spicy shrimp, and also how to conceive of a great dish from random ingredients in the fridge, and I’ve taught her how to poach eggs and cook pasta), so we try to keep our kitchen as practical and functional as possible. Sure, these pots and pans aren’t the prettiest things, but it’s easier having them hung up than away in a cabinet that we have to bend down to reach.

And you’ll notice that artwork on the left — it was given to us for free (we don’t purchase artwork for the house because of budget restraints). The balcony in the painting is my childhood home in Australia.

When we moved into our apartment, it didn’t have any shelving units. So we found some old wood and hung up shelves with 90 degree L-shaped brackets. These DIY shelves are great for displaying small items like pictures and speakers. And a random didgeridoo that I brought back from Australia.

When our place starts to feel stale (as can happen when you’ve been in one house for many years!), we simply throw on some upbeat music and rearrange our belongings and furniture. It’s amazing what a difference that can make.

So if you thought decorating was an expensive or laborious chore, look around at the things you already own. These items tell the story of you, and why not use them to make your house a distinctive home?


Trilby Beresford is a journalist from Australia, currently residing in Los Angeles. Her writing has appeared in The Week, Amy Poehler’s Smart Girls, Bullett Media, Geek & Sundry, American Film, HelloGiggles, Nerdist, Flood Magazine, The Stir by Cafemom and numerous other publications. Trilby has an M.F.A. from the American Film Institute Conservatory and a B.A. from the University of Sydney.


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